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Published on : May 26, 2015

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut say they are getting rid of artificial colors and flavors, making them the latest big food companies scrambling to distance themselves from ingredients people might find unappetizing. Instead of black pepper flavor, for example, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef, stated Liz Matthews, the chief food innovation officer of the food chain.

The Mexican-style chain also says the artificial dye yellow no. six will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine, a bright pigment, will be removed from its red tortilla strips. Matthews said some of the new recipes are being tested in select markets and should be in stores nationally by the end of the year.

The biggest food makers of the country are facing pressure from smaller rivals that position themselves as more wholesome alternatives. Chipotle in particular has found success in marketing itself as an antidote to traditional fast food, although some question the meaningfulness of some of its claims. In April, Chipotle announced it had removed genetically modified organisms from its food, even though the Food and Drug Administration states GMOs are safe.

Critics say the purging of chemicals is a response to unfounded fears over ingredients, but companies are nevertheless rushing to ensure their recipes do not become marketing disadvantages. In recent months, restaurant chains including Panera, McDonald's and Subway have said they are switching to ingredients people can easily recognize.

Mr. John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State University, stated companies are realizing some ingredients may not be worth the potential harm they might cause to their images, given changing attitudes about additives.